Owning a dog is a huge responsibility, and there are times when you can’t take your dog with you. Even when you leave your dog at home while you go to work, that’s a good nine or 10 hours that he or she sits alone at home. Enter: doggie daycare.
The growing trend is to treat animals more like children, and since you wouldn’t leave your children alone for 10 hours every day, guess what happens? An industry is born. The rising popularity of doggie daycare businesses has been profound.
Consider that 50 percent of pet owners skip vacations because they lack good options for pet boarding, and it’s easy to see why there’s still a lot of room for growth. Typically, doggie daycare centers charge $25 to $50 per 24-hour stay, although there is also a vibrant high-end market that charges five times that and more.
It’s easy to see the benefits that doggie daycare businesses provide. If your dog makes too much noise when you’re away or gets lonely and depressed sitting home alone, doggie daycare is a great option. The daily nurturing, support, and interaction with other dogs is quite a change that most dogs would appreciate.
Some facilities even offer grooming, training, and activities, and all should provide safety and security measures. If this all sounds like a business you’d like to start, you should know that the investment may be minimal compared to the rewards. Keep in mind before jumping in that you should have some experience with dogs other than just with your own, otherwise, it may be a hard sell to potential customers.
What It Takes to Start
Average startup costs for a home-based doggie daycare business are typically less than $10,000. However, before spending any money, there are some things to keep in mind.
Are there any local ordinances that would prevent you from operating this business? How about zoning laws and your homeowners association limitations? Investigate first to determine if a home-based doggie daycare business would be a possible fit for your living situation.
Once you know that it is, you’ll want to take a look at your setting and what basic supplies you’ll need. At the very least, you’ll need kennels, leashes, beds, and food bowls in addition to a decent-sized outdoor play area that is fenced and secure. You’ll also want to examine your outdoor area for any potential hazards like harmful plants, chemicals, and dangerous tools.
You will also want to consider the business insurance and business license you will likely need to operate the business. In some states and counties, getting a dog care license may be mandatory, as will an on-site health inspection. Liability insurance is crucial just in case the worst happens and a dog is killed or injured while in your care.
Besides the physical supplies, a good portion of your initial investment will be spent on marketing and advertising. How else are you going to get customers?
How to Stand Out
For your doggie daycare business to stand out from the rest, you’ll want to accentuate the differences, or in other words, focus on your USP―Unique Selling Proposition. What separates you from the rest? Is it more amenities? Is it different amenities or specialized services, or an exceptional quality of comfort and care? Once you determine your USP, then you’ll need to brand your business.
Branding is about messaging. The message you’re sending to potential customers must persuade and inspire them, but most importantly, your branding has to create trust.
Start by creating a mission statement, and include in it your love for animals. Remember that you’re trying to appeal to the emotions of pet owners, and reassure them that you’ll treat their dog just as you would your own.
In your messaging, paint a vivid picture of what care under your supervision looks like. Be detailed and transparent. Include videos and photos on your website and in your marketing materials.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your online reputation and customer reviews. Your happy customers are social proof. They tell potential customers that others have had good experiences with you, which in turn makes them think they’ll receive the same. Actively seek out reviews from satisfied customers and turn those reviews into customer testimonials that you can use to market your business.
If you’re not sure how important customer testimonials are, they’ve been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 34 percent.
How to Attract New Customers
Once you’ve identified your USP and have perfected your branding message, then it’s time to begin marketing. For a new small business startup such as a dog daycare, a social media presence is going to be important to your success.
Having a social media presence is going to give you an opportunity to reach your current and potential customers. Your customers will be able to interact with and share your pages, and you can use that to share relevant content and any deals you might be offering. Social media is also the perfect medium for photos and videos, and who doesn’t love photos and videos of dogs?
You can also try giving something away for free in exchange for an email address. How about a good-looking T-shirt that also promotes your business? Or, perhaps a guide on some aspect of dog ownership would be a useful gift, or even a coupon for half off for a customer’s first visit? There are a number of freebies you can choose, but the important thing is getting email addresses from interested people, so you can continue to outreach in a more direct way than just social media.
Create some content. Blogs are ideal, as are video blogs. Content drives social sharing, targeted web traffic to your site, and email subscribers. Think of it like this:
1. Social media allows you to find new customers.
2. Blogging allows you to engage with new customers.
3. Email allows you to nurture your relationship with new customers.
Content marketing, for B2C (business to consumer) businesses, is particularly effective, provided that it’s done correctly.
Also, as you start your at-home doggie daycare business, you'll want to make your home look more appealing to new customers. If you can get new customers to your place of business (your house), you don’t want to scare them away with a house that may need repairs and other TLC. Many may see the kind of care you put into your house as the same kind of care you will give their dog, so you want to make it looks warm, clean, and perfect place for their pooch.
Don’t forget that selecting a doggie daycare is an emotional choice for pet owners. You’ll want to direct your efforts at appealing to that emotional side, and the best way to do that is by showing prospective customers that their dogs will receive the best care possible.